sam mcroberts

The Grand Redesign | Sam McRoberts with Jim O’Shaughnessy on Infinite Loops Ep. 143

Check out the Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • We are entering an exponential trajectory of technological progress and our antiquated minds cannot possibly keep up unless we change the stories, programming, and hardware
  • Technological progress is like a snowball rolling down a hill, picking up more matter and evolving as it goes 
  • Today, we are operating on the programming that worked really well in caves and savannas but does not work quite as well in the massive groups that we find ourselves in now   
  • Stories can help us overcome the deeply-rooted social wiring that does not always serve us
  • Negative storytelling appeals to our base emotion of fear, especially novel fear regarding things that new
  • The heretics working on the leading edge of technology must reframe their innovation’s impact with better stories  
  • We may fall victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy of a tech dystopia if we do not get the stories right  
  • Humans evolved during times of zero-sum conflict, so all of the stories we told around the campfire were zero-sum conflict-based stories
  • Upgrading the human operating system will not solve all the world’s problems, but it will create new and better problems that can also be solved 
  • Humans control what pumps the gas or slams on the break for the AI, which are control measures that we barely have for ourselves 
  • Our current system is optimized for growing GDP, not human flourishing 
  • Reduce the flow of negative information into your mind and increase the volume of positive information in the world
  • Try to be optimistic about the future, and see yourself as a human on earth instead of being a member of a specific tribe 

Intro 

  • Sam McRoberts (@Sam_Antics) is an author and the CEO of VUDU Marketing and Digital Nomad. His new book, The Grand Redesign, blends science fiction and science fact into a mind-melding story that is out of this world. 
  • In this conversation, Sam McRoberts and Jim O’Shaughnessy discuss technological progress, social OS, antiquated wiring in humans, the power of storytelling, optimism, incentives, cognitive biases, artificial intelligence, the value of having a positive-sum mindset, and much more  
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Jim’s conversation with the founder of Stability AI  
  • Host: Jim O’Shaughnessy (@jposhaughnessy)

Motivations For The Grand Redesign   

  • Things need to change for humanity to make it 
  • We are entering this exponential trajectory and our antiquated minds cannot possibly keep up unless we change the stories, programming, and hardware 
  • Sam’s book is a user guide on what we need to do to make it to the other side of this exponential change 

The Watcher 

  • “The Watcher”, as described in Sam’s book, would be perhaps the oldest member of civilization from the distant past 
  • The Watcher lives in the first civilization that achieved a post-scarcity society, so he is able to pursue whatever his authentic interests are
  • The Watcher travels around the universe and watches how other civilizations function but never interferes… until he does
  • He becomes particularly interested in one civilization and decides to interfere to help it out 

Technological Progress 

  • Technology rolls forward as fast as people can come up with ideas and try them
  • The faster the technology rolls forward, the more the corpus of experience and thought builds up around it and it gains further momentum 
  • Technological progress is like a snowball rolling down a hill, picking up more matter as it goes 
  • It is unrealistic to intentionally slow down the speed of scientific progress 

Social OS, Antiquated Wiring   

  • Humans evolved to be coordinating social creatures, primarily because it is an evolutionary advantage for survival  
  • Humans evolved to work together to gain better resources, defend ourselves, mate, and control our environments
  • Humans have deeply rooted social components wired into our base code 
  • The in-group-out-group bias is one of those social components, which describes how one group is threatened by a new group that comes along because resources are scarce  
  • Sam McRoberts refers to this as “antiquated wiring”; it has been in place for at least 50,000 years and has not changed much 
  • Today, we are operating on the programming that worked really well in caves and savannas but does not work quite as well in the massive groups that we find ourselves in now    
  • This antiquated wiring may need an upgrade if we are heading into a post-scarcity world 

The Power of Story 

  • Stories are the most important component for the transition, according to Sam McRoberts 
  • Stories can help us overcome the deeply-rooted social wiring that does not always serve us 
  • It is important to remove as much negative storytelling as possible
  • Ad-based media companies are incentivized to tell negative stories to increase engagement   
  • Be aware of your own information diet 
  • Sam tries to remove everything in his information diet that is based in negativity
  • Negative storytelling appeals to our base emotion of fear, especially novel fear regarding things that new

The Tsunami Of Awareness

  • Throughout history, societies have relied on a tsunami of awareness to fix their problems, but mass awakening never comes
  • The history of humanity is more like a subset of people carrying everyone else along who are kicking, screaming, and burning them at the stake
  • There is no “mass awakening” in the history of humanity 
  • The heretics working on the leading edge of technology must reframe their innovation’s intention with better stories  
    • “This new technology is not trying to steal work from you, this is trying to augment your abilities”
    • “This new technology will not make you obsolete, it will make you exceptional” 
  • We may fall victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy of a tech dystopia if we do not get the stories right  

Optimistic Sci-Fi 

  • New, uplifting stories that get people excited about the future, instead of dreading it, will change the direction of humanity for the good 
  • Humans evolved during times of zero-sum conflict, so all of the stories we told around the campfire were zero-sum conflict-based stories
  • These zero-sum conflict stories, such as dystopian sci-fi, appeal to the antiquated wiring within us
  • Utopian sci-fi is boring because there is no story arc if everyone lives happily ever after
  • O’Shaughnessy Ventures is only investing in positive sum ventures   

Changing The System With Better Incentives

  • Sam became fascinated by incentives ever since he discovered the Cobra Effect, which describes how linear thinking can lead to perverse incentives
  • If you understand what makes a person tick, changing their incentive structure can result in significant improvement for them 
  • Sam thinks the optimal way to get an idea to spread is to get the highest-status people to spread it 
  • Upgrading the human operating system will not solve all the world’s problems, but it will create new and better problems that can also be solved 
  • “I realistically think within the next decade or two, we’ll be able to change a great deal about our human biology.” – Sam McRoberts
    • The ability to change the way we think, have more control over emotions and have more control over the algorithms that we’re running 

Reprogramming Cognitive Biases 

  • Cognitive biases are set to run automatically in environments of scarcity 
  • Anything that can be done to raise somebody’s baseline on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs gives their brain the bandwidth to act on some of the things they may already know 
  • People will have enough time to act on the things they need to act on in a post-scarcity future 
  • We must equip others with the knowledge to see what is running in the background, but then also help them get to a place where they can act on that knowledge 
  • Evil Genius Jim O’Shaughnessy would stage phony debates, have 24-hour news, and provide bread and circuses if he was trying to control a population – much like we have today 
  • “If somebody wants to be in power, they probably shouldn’t be there.”Sam McRoberts 

Power, Laws, & Service

  • Laws should be created by experts within the given domain that disagree with each other 
  • Lock them in a room and have them work through their disagreements to create the law 
  • Every law should have sunset provisions, according to Jim O’Shaughnessy
  • The centralized government’s feedback loop must be improved 
  • The current political system incentives all the wrong behaviors; it has turned into a power and status game that no longer is in the service of the interests of the people 
  • Sam argues for “government rules as a service” (GRaaS) that have sunset periods and different people review them when they are due to be re-evaluated 
  • There are laws that were written in 1828 that are still in effect today that nobody knows about

Artificial Intelligence 

  • AI could help clean up our legal system by finding laws that contradict each other or are no longer useful 
  • AI is going to put pressure on deeply-entrenched interests in areas like the legal system and medical research 
  • AI will help interrogate the veracity of researchers that have died and analyze their conclusions 
  • The interrogation of questioning entrenched status-quos will create its own mimetic momentum that encourages others to reconsider preconceived notions in their own field
    • How does this interrogation process occur without causing physical conflict? 
  • How to avoid the conflicts that will result from asking these questions is going to be very hard because it is impossible to please everybody, and humans are still fear-based 
  • Telling better stories is the best way to start this process; people love media, and they will enjoy better media if it is provided to them
    • It is like a reverse Frog in the Pot; instead of turning up the heat on the unsuspecting frog, you are turning up the awesome 

The Precautionary Principle 

  • Of course, we have to take precautions when it comes to AI, according to Jim, who is not a panglossian optimist about anything  
  • Used properly, AI is the tool that we can use to upgrade society 
  • Every technology is a double-edged sword; there are no solutions, only trade-offs 
  • When coding AI, humans have control over the systems of rewards and weightings for it 
  • Humans control what pumps the gas or slams on the break for the AI, which are control measures that we barely have for ourselves 
  • We are still ways out from the type of AI that is truly mind-bending 

AI & Education

  • AI will be able to create tailor-made lessons for students based on their learning style 
  • An unintended consequence of the current education system is that it crushes creativity and open-mindedness 

Free Markets & Economics 

  • Our current system is optimized for growing GDP, not human flourishing 
  • Free markets have a lot of problems, but they do deliver on what they say they will do 
  • Some of the reasons why free markets work: they are open, largely transparent, and have fast feedback loops
  • The Keynesian economic models that the U.S. has used for the last 50 years took humans out of their assumptions 
  • Putting humans in the model complicates things, so the Keynesians simply remove the humans from their model 

Genius

  • For every Leonardo da Vinci that we knew about, there were a million others that we did not know about 
  • AI will help discover the genius farmer in some remote village and level the playing field so he can innovate like any person in America can 

Sam McRoberts’s Suggestions & Solutions  

  • Reduce the flow of negative information into your mind 
  • Every source of negative information feeding into your mind is poisoning your psyche, whether you are conscious of it or not, according to Sam McRoberts 
  • Increase the volume of positive information 
  • Create an incentivized system that gets people to stop seeing everybody around them as “others” 
  • Humanity is one tribe; we must drop the micro-tribal nonsense that separates us 
  • See everybody around you as an opportunity to be kind 
  • We cannot yet get rid of our us-versus-them wiring entirely 
  • The “other” that we should focus against is death, not other humans on earth  
  • Lengthening the lifespan of the human being may help unlock an entirely new cognitive space with infinite opportunities 

Positive-Sum Mindset

  • So many of the targets that people aim for are status-based or mimetic-based
  • They want it because somebody else has it or because they think it will elevate their status
    • For more on mimesis, check out these Podcast Notes with Johnathan Bi
  • The implications of digital replication are profound and they affect everything
    • Creating an extra hardcover book costs $5, but creating another PDF version of it costs zero 
  • The digital version of Sam’s book The Grand Redesign will be free forever 
  • Sam McRoberts would incept optimism and excitement for the future into everyone if he were the omniscient emperor for the day 
  • He would also have people see themself as a human on earth and drop all of the other tribes
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Notes By Stan Rizzo

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